Darling Associates has zoomed 19 places up the AJ100 rankings, having added 29 architects in 2018 through organic growth and the acquisition of Manchester leisure and hospitality practice Architect-CT. Total architectural fees rose by a fifth to £8.4 million.
‘It was a very good year for us,’ says founder Chris Darling, who set up the practice in 2003. ‘Brexit has started to hit us in 2019, but it wasn’t a real factor in 2018.’
Darling’s two largest sectors are residential and workplace, followed by hotels and hospitality. The practice reports a strong pipeline of work but has noticed a trend towards a less London-centric workload. New regional work includes major PRS housing developments in Exeter, Birmingham, and Manchester.
Major completions in 2018 included three London projects. In Lambeth, it completed Lollard Street, an 89-home social housing redevelopment of a former car park as the Section 106 component of the Shell Centre development. On Marylebone High Street, Darling designed the interior spatial planning and finishes on Dixon Jones’s W1 apartment development, and in Soho it completed a retrofit and rooftop extension of Axtell House, a seven-storey commercial property off Regent Street.
Following the Manchester acquisition, Darling has an eye on further expansion this year, and is considering opening a new office either in the Midlands or in Dublin, both on the back of existing work.
While its strategy for the next year is cautious growth, the practice is ambitious for the longer-term future. ‘Our strategy is to grow to about 200 staff and be a top 20 UK practice, so that we’ll never be ruled out by virtue of size or capability. We won’t stop and rest. We’ll keep on pushing forward,’ says Darling.